Last week, I was lucky enough to be sent a book in draft-form to read and review and I loved it – it was all about oracy. Now oracy tends to be the poor relation to literacy and numeracy – the sibling who gets overlooked all too often. I wonder how many educators could confidently explain what oracy is. To clarify, it is “The ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech.”
As educators we know how important it is to model reading, writing and mathematical notation and thinking, but do we ensure that we also model grammatically accurate speech? English grammar is notoriously difficult and if it isn’t modelled correctly, then the children and young people we teach have a limited chance of using it appropriately.
In a similar vein, do we consciously model new vocabulary and allow children opportunities to use and rehearse the words? For a long time as a teacher I didn’t realise how important this was.
Put quite simply, if I read a picture-book and I pre-teach some of the words, then the enjoyment of the children will be so much greater as they will understand what is being read to them. If I read ‘I’m going on a bear hunt’ and I haven’t explained what river, cave or snowstorm are will the children enjoy it as much?
Over the years, I have learnt to take nothing for granted.
I remember taking a group of children to a zoo to see the exotic animals, they were more excited about seeing the cows and hearing them ‘moo’ as they had never seen any in real life. Just because you teach in a seaside town, don’t assume that children have ever been to the beach!
Sorry, as always, I have gone off on a tangent so back to oracy. Our children are growing up in a world where the written word is often digitalised and the grammar and punctuation of this are poor. My daughter finds it bizarre that I punctuate my texts and write all words in long-form! Living in this strange written world means that we need to ensure that we are creating even more opportunities in the classroom to develop our children and young people’s speaking and listening skills.
I have recently read the literacy guidance for Primary settings from the Education and Endowment Foundation. There are three booklets – Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 and recommendation 1 in all three documents are to ensure that oracy is at the heart of our literacy teaching. The EEF suggest that we do this through modelling, creating opportunities for discussion and ensuring that we are teaching vocabulary explicitly. They remind us that by discussing books and unpicking them we are developing children’s comprehension skills, by orally rehearsing sentences before writing them we are developing children’s grammar and punctuation skills. Read more about the guidance, here.
Yes, oracy is important and without it, our children will be much poorer. We may live in a digital age, but we are still having interviews face-to-face (albeit on Zoom) and I can’t see that disappearing anytime soon.
We need to prepare our young people for their future, so what speaking and listening activities have you got planned in for your class this week?